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US Democrats unveil $825 billion package to boost spending

A candidate fills up job application form. US jobless figures are up. (REUTERS)

By Reuters

US Senate Democrats have unveiled their version of a massive economic stimulus proposal that, like its counterpart in the House of Representatives, would provide new emergency spending and tax cuts totalling $825 billion (Dh3 trillion).

The Senate Appropriations Committee outlined $365bn in spending under its jurisdiction to try to pull the US economy out of its more than year-long recession. That figure is just slightly more than the $358bn approved this week by the House Appropriations panel.

"These investments will not only create jobs now, but will also address neglected priorities here at home and lay the foundation for solid economic growth in the long term, said Senator Daniel Inouye, chairman of the appropriations committee.

Congress is rushing to meet a mid-February deadline that President Barack Obama has set for passage of a stimulus measure.

Both sides said they expected to have a package ready for Obama to sign by that deadline.

But they continued to disagree on details.

Republicans complain the Democrats' measures contain too much spending. They are calling for more tax cuts, which they said would better spur job growth and help revive the economy.

Earlier, Senate Finance Committee Democrats put forward $275bn in tax cuts, an amount identical to the tax cuts being sought in the House of Representatives. Other economic committees will oversee details of the bill that would bring its total to $825bn.

This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to debate the huge spending bill and the full House of Representatives hopes to pass its version. Amid Republican complaints it would take years to spend a large portion of the funding, the Obama administration released a letter that said it wanted at least 75 percentage of the money spent by September 30, 2010.

"Everybody believes that government's action is necessary," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech to the National Press Club. "It will happen and I think it will happen before the anticipated week off in February."

He questioned whether Republican ideas would be adopted in the Democratic-controlled Senate and House, but said he believed Obama was open to them.

"We will see, as we go along, how many of them are incorporated."

Republicans handed their alternatives to Obama at a bipartisan White House meeting and planned to press their ideas when the package comes to a House vote on Wednesday. Obama will visit Capitol Hill again next week to push for the package.

The Democratic tax cut plan would direct benefits more towards lower-income workers, even those who do not pay income taxes, while the House Republicans would help all taxpayers.

The Republicans do not yet know the cost of their plan.